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Short Stories by Ernest Hemingway

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"Remember, that who ruleth his spirit is greater than he that taketh a city," said his wife. She was a Christian Scientist. Her Bible, her copy of Science and Health and her Quarterly were on the table beside her bed in the darkened room.

Her husband did not answer. He was sitting on his bed now, cleaning a shotgun. He pushed the magazine full of the yellow heavy shells and pumped them out again. They were all scattered on the bed. ...

His wife was silent. The doctor wiped his gun carefully with a rag. He pushed the shells back against the spring of the magazine. He sat with the gun on his knees. He was very fond of it. Then he heard his wife´s voice from the darkened room.

"Dear, I don´t think, I really don´t think that anyone would do a thing like that."           


from: The Doctor and the Doctor´s Wife

The Doctor and the Doctor´s Wife by Ernest Hemingway
Ernest Hemingway’s short stories are generally regarded as the best ones ever written as they lack the amount of symbols included in other short stories but possess the quality that human behaviour is presented purely and stripped to its skeleton. Hemingway always uses the so-called iceberg principle in his stories meaning that only a small part of the true nature of the story is apparent at first.

The short story "The doctor and the doctor’s wife" can be structured into three different parts: the doctor´s argument with the Indians, the experience with his wife and in the end the experience with Nick.

This short story begins with the father of Nick Adams, Hemingway’s actual hero but whom the narrator just mentions in the end, who sends three Indians to cut up logs. He faces very physical and masculine workers, who carry axes and saws. It also becomes clear that they seem to be prepared for the upcoming work. Before they reach the beach Dick Boulton, the half-breed, turns and shuts the gate.

During the work an argument between Dick and the doctor arises because Dick says that the logs are stolen whilst the doctor prefers to call it driftwood which has been washed up after being lost by a steamer. Although it is obvious that the logs belong to a company as its name is engraved on the wood Nick’s father gets so nervous and upset about Dick’s accusation that he finally threatens him to knock his eye teeth down his throat. He can probably rationalize the theft himself, but does not want it to be stated by Dick.

"The doctor was very uncomfortable" when it turned out that the logs belonged to someone else. On the one hand he wants the wood to be cut, but on the other hand he hesitates as Dick reminds him that it is not actually theirs. In this passage several weaknesses of the doctor are revealed. The first one is the fact that he actually does not care if the logs do belong to someone else as long as it is not spoken out loud. To him it is just crucial that they are referred in a correct way, their true ownership does not matter. Secondly his physical weakness exposes him also mentally after he has threatened Dick, who is a big man and likes "to get into fights". The doctor leaves angrily because he knows that he is not able to seriously fight this man. Despite the fact that he is very angry about Dick calling the logs his theft, he chews "his beard on his lower lip", a sign of nervousness and uncertainty, and then leaves the place. After a while Dick and the other Indians leave as well, but this time Dick leaves the gate open, which he closed in the beginning, demonstrating that he lost interest and this eager attitude he had before.

When the doctor returns to his home he finds his wife, who can apparently guess what has happened despite the fact that he avoids to openly explain what has caused his rage. His wife is a Christian scientist and reminds him not to lose his temper by quoting from the Bible. At the same time the doctor starts to clean his shotgun and put shells in it. That might be a hint that is so controlled by his anger, which urges him to avenge the ‘lost fight’, but once again his wife manages to draw him away from the immediate desire to kill. He invents another story to satisfy her and to stop her reminding him of his good manners not to do any harm to anyone (with regard to his work as a doctor). Nonetheless his wife realizes what her husband is doing and thus tells him that she " can’t really believe that anyone would do a thing of that sort intentionally." This remark causes him to leave as by which he admits that he has lost a second time. This time his loss is due to the fact that his wife’s religious beliefs and her strong influence on him force him out. He slams the door announcing dissatisfaction with himself and anger which he now has to control.

During his argument with Dick he orally threatened to harm him. Now his wife orally prevents him from doing Dick any physical harm and therefore displaying the doctor’s loss on a different level. Nevertheless he prefers frustration instead of arguing with his wife.

The doctor then obeys his wife’s command to look for Nick, whom he finds reading a book; the doctor closes the book and takes Nick on a hunt for black squirrels. He or masculinity is controlled by femininity and tries to escape into a balanced world in which women do not disturb the environment: hunting.

In this short story open things are confronted by closed things. At the end of the first part Dick leaves the back gate open, thus giving a sign of his dismissal of the doctor. Another Indian, Billy Tabeshaw, who does not say a word, closes it. The doctor loses against many open things: Dick’s mouth, his wife’s bible, the open gate and tries to escape several times. When he finds Nick reading a book, also something open, he fights it off by closing it himself.


Copyright ©Leistungskurs13/2000-2002 Gymnasium Steglitz

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